Xavi compares Lewandowski to Ronaldinho and Messi

Robert Lewandowski is available after a hamstring injury
Robert Lewandowski is available after a hamstring injury

LaLiga’s top scorer with 15 goals this season, Lewandowski has missed the Blaugrana’s last two games after sustaining a hamstring strain.

But the Poland captain is back in the squad for the trip to Athletic Bilbao, where leaders Barca will be aiming to maintain their nine-point lead at the top of the table.

“Robert has been training with the group since Thursday after some days off, and he’s ready,” head coach Xavi said during his pre-match press conference. “He’s feeling well and always wants to play.

“We are really happy to have him here with us. I will compare him with people like Ronaldinho and Messi. He’s changed the mentality of the team. He’s our leader and all our players are growing with him.

“We won without him, but we missed him. We attack better with Lewandowski. He presses high up front; he’s a crucial player for us.”

Barca will be without the injured Pedri and Ousmane Dembele at San Mames, while Ronald Araujo misses out through suspension.

That could see Eric Garcia start in the heart of defence, with Xavi paying tribute to the Spain international.

“He’s a great professional,” he added. “He doesn’t participate as much as he deserves. But he has competition at a big club like Barca.

“He is a player of present and future. I’m counting on him. He always plays well when he’s on the field. He’s an example in the locker room.”

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